Your vote does not count. OK, well, this statement should not be left unqualified. You live in California. You are an idealistic college student. Now is the time to vote what you believe in. As many disgruntled Democrats know, Bush won the state of Florida by 537 votes, and of course these same disgruntled Democrats blame Nader and his over 97,000 votes for this defeat. Well, your lefty-progressive-hippie ass should be happy you live on the Left Coast – where you have the liberty to vote your conscience – because that same year Gore won our Golden State with a majority 53 percent as compared with Dubya’s measly 42 percent. Nader only picked up 4 percent. The latest poll for this election has Kerry winning with 53 percent and Bush at 43 percent, and Nader is not even on the California ballot this time around. In other words, Bush will not win California in 2004.

You know how out electoral system works, right? No matter how close the election is, the winner takes all. In other words, Kerry – assuming nothing major happens between now and Nov. 2 – already has our entire state’s 55 electoral votes without one person casting a ballot. With Kerry’s lead as wide as it is, it would be virtually impossible – all other things being equal – for him to lose California.

This means we, as progressives, have work to do. I am, hereby, asking every student on this campus who plans to vote for Kerry to please just consider writing in Nader’s name on the ballot or simply casting your vote for Green Party candidate David Cobb. It only makes sense. We are so blessed to live in a state that gives us the freedom to do this safely without worrying about inadvertently “voting for Bush.” Of course, if we did live in a swing state, I would not be writing this.

Do I have anything personal against Kerry? No – in fact, I have a Kerry sticker on my car. The reason to vote for a real progressive candidate is that once Kerry is elected, which he will be, he will have more pressure on him to fight for the real issues that are not being debated in this election, such as excessive corporate power, universal healthcare, media concentration, campaign finance reform and a living wage. I realize that there are massive differences between Bush and Kerry, but if you are a classic liberal like me, you can’t ignore the fact that Kerry will not press for progressive reforms unless he is pressured by voters. Historically, many of our country’s greatest reforms have been a direct result of third-party pressure, such as the abolition of slavery and women’s right to vote.

There are a far greater number of folks to the left of the Democratic Party than there are folks to the right of the Republican Party. There are various reasons for this, but the main reason is that the party no longer has any balls. They move toward the center in an effort to cater to the oh-so-precious undecided voter who, unfortunately, will decide this election. This reasoning is fallacious, though. The truth is that there is an entire unrepresented segment of our population that is just waiting for their votes to be tapped. These are the people who are struggling day-to-day to get by. If only someone would speak to them and address their struggles, then the American voting demographic would shift far enough to the left that the undecided voter would be left – no pun intended – impotent.

So, Kerry isn’t necessarily a bad guy – it’s that he needs a little kick in the ass. And because neither you nor I have direct access to him. One of the most effective ways to get him to stand up for the progressive issues that we believe in is to strategically vote for someone more progressive than he is. However, if I have not convinced you, please do not vote for Kerry without making demands on him. Tell him what issues he needs to fight for to deserve your vote.

I want Bush out of office just as much as you probably do, but this dethroning Bush and simultaneously putting pressure on Kerry to represent you and your political interests are not mutually exclusive. Don’t just vote – vote your conscience.

Ash Roughani is a senior philosophy major.